Making Assumptions on Projects — A Ticking Time Bomb?

I’m pleased to say that one of my recent articles has been published on “Techwell.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.

 

Excerpt:

Dynamite with a lit fuse

Assumptions are a fact of life. Without making assumptions, it’s unlikely that many decisions would get made, and certainly fewer projects would ever get launched.

 

However, sometimes assumptions come back to haunt us as the UK’s Royal Navy recently experienced. The Navy reportedly made a decision to scrap an order for jump jets, which it subsequently overturned.

 

The UK’s Public Accounts Committee has scrutinized the original decision and described it as being made based on “immature data and flawed assumptions.” The reported cost of this U-turn is £74 million ($113 million USD)—quite a blow to the taxpayers’ pockets.

 

If assumptions are a reality of life, how should we handle them when working on projects? And how can we avoid getting tripped up by them later in the project?

 

Click on the link below to read more:

http://www.techwell.com/2013/05/making-assumptions-projects-ticking-time-bomb

 

The story of the hotel that turns away money (and why it matters)

Frustrated man in red shirt with green tieOn a recent business trip, I saw something which really opened my eyes, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you.

 

Imagine the scene:  It’s 8pm on a Sunday evening in the foyer of a central London hotel.  The hotel is part of a mid-size national chain, and they offer discounts for booking online.  It’s not a particularly grand hotel, but it’s functional, and it’s in a great location.   I’d checked in and I was wandering up to my room when something caught my attention.  I paused and looked back at reception, and in doing so, I overheard a rather intriguing dialogue.

 

It all started when an animated and happy couple of Australian tourists bounced up to reception:

 

“Hi, we’re visiting London for 2 nights whilst we travel around the UK. We’d like to stay here. Do you have any vacancies today?”

 

The receptionist replied with a short, sharp “Yes” – much to the delight of the visitors.

 

“OK, great.  We don’t have a reservation — so can we book a room please?”

 

The receptionist responded, without missing a beat.

 

“Well… yes.  But…. And I’m really, really sorry about this sir, you’ll have to call through to our centralised booking phone line.  Here’s the number.  You’re welcome to stay in the foyer while you do this.”

 

The (potential) customer paused and looked shocked. He replied “I only have my Australian mobile phone – with roaming charges it’ll cost me a fortune to call through to that number.  Can’t you do anything else to help?”

 

Continue reading The story of the hotel that turns away money (and why it matters)

The deceptively difficult question: “What business are we in”

I recently came across an interesting post in a LinkedIN forum.  One of the forum members, Patrick McFadden, made a simple but extremely valuable observation:

 

 “Want to stump your employees? Ask a simple question: What business are we in.

 

Figure standing in the middle of four red crossing arrows, representing a number of directions that are availableThis is an extremely valid point.  Go into any large or mid-size organisation and ask a question like “What business are we in” or “What is this organisation for” and you’re likely to get a number of subtly different answers – or in some cases wildly different answers.

 

Let’s take the theoretical example of a motor (auto) insurance company.   On the face of it, we’d expect the answer to our question “what business are we in” to be simple – we’re in insurance, right?  That is certainly true, but often when delving deeper some intriguing differences start to emerge.  These differences can exist at all levels of the organisation.  We might get responses like:

 

  • Marketing Manager: “We’re in the business of selling peace of mind to our customers, through comprehensively designed insurance policies”
  • Underwriting Manager: “We’re in the business of selling optimally priced profitable insurance within our target market”
  • Actuary: “We’re in the business of spotting analytical trends that our competitors can’t so that we can offer great value insurance premiums whilst reducing our risk exposure”
  • Customer Services Manager: “We’re in the business of selling great value insurance whilst offering excellent service to our customers”
  • Claims Manager: “We’re in the business of delivering on our promises and helping our insurance customers in their time of need”
  • CEO: “We’re in the business of designing and developing market leading insurance solutions whilst delivering market-leading profit and ROI to our shareholders”
  • Shareholder: “You’re in the business of staying profitable and keeping dividends high!”

 

What these different perspectives show are a difference in each stakeholder’s worldview, and also the transformation that the organisation carries out – i.e. how it adds value to the customer.  (These are terms derived or drawn from Checkland’s soft systems methodology, and this article is also inspired by some of Checkland’s techniques).   This can cause particular challenges if there are differences at the top of the organisation that haven’t been discussed: Imagine working for a clothes retailer where one senior executive’s view was that the organisation existed to “Sell practical clothes at low cost” yet another senior executive’s view was that the organisation existed to “Further fashion and promote the works of local fashion designers”.   It’s likely the organisation would be in constant tension!

Continue reading The deceptively difficult question: “What business are we in”

Tacit Knowledge: Dodging the Requirements Hazard

I’m pleased to say that one of my recent blog articles has been published on “Techwell.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.

A short excerpt is shown below:

 

Excerpt:

Banana Skin
Avoid the hazard…

“I was recently reminded about an anecdotal story involving the late Charles Proteus Steinmetz, the great electrical engineer who lived in the late 1800s–early 1900s. It’s reported that around the turn of the century, Steinmetz was called out of retirement to diagnose a fault with a generator. After a couple of days of work, he marked a large X on the side of the machine and provided instructions on how to fix the fault.

 

According to the story, Steinmetz later submitted an invoice for an unprecedented $1,000, which must have been a fortune in the early 1900s. When asked to itemize his invoice, he reportedly submitted an invoice that showed $1 for making a chalk mark and $999 for knowing where to place the mark.

 

It’s difficult to know whether this story is true, but it illustrates an interesting point that is relevant today for organizations and projects—the issue of tacit knowledge or the unknown knowns…”

 

Click on the link below to read the rest of this article

http://www.techwell.com/2013/03/tacit-knowledge-dodging-requirements-hazard

The Set Comes After the Script and the Solution Comes After the Business Need

I’m pleased to say that one of my recent blog articles has been published on “Bridging-the-gap.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.

 

Excerpt:

Movie film on a spoolA few weeks ago in Cannes, France, the annual “Cannes Film Festival” was held.  This is a world-famous annual festival that dedicates itself to the development of the cinema and movie industries.  It’s an opportunity for filmmakers to compete, as well as enjoying the red carpet and the opportunity to hang out with other stars in a fantastic location!

 

When watching coverage of the festival on the news, it occurred to me that every film is essentially a project.  It has funding; there is a timeline, an end-deliverable and a whole range of constraints.  My mind wandered – “I wonder if they have business analysts in the film industry – or if they recognise the art and science of business analysis?”  Well, I’ve certainly never seen the title “business analyst” appear on the credits of a film, but there certainly seem to be similarities.  This probably sounds a little abstract, so let me explain one particular example….

 

Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/the-set-comes-after-the-script-and-the-solution-comes-after-the-business-need/

 

 


About the author:

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis training and consulting services. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, including a specific enterprise and problem analysis course, please visit www.blackmetric.com

Blackmetric Business Solutions

Business Analysts—Don’t Hide from the Data Model

I’m pleased to say that one of my recent articles has been published on “Techwell.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.

 

Excerpt:

Paper file with magnifying glassThere’s no better way to divide a group of business analysts than to mention data models. As the aptly-named “Business Alchemist” recently observed in his blog, there is often a real reluctance to model data as it is seen as a technical activity rather than a business-focused activity. The Business Alchemist went on to conclude that there is nothing to fear about the “D” word, and this is an area that business analysts should embrace.

 

I fully support this view. I think it’s so important that project teams gain an understanding of the logical structure of data that an organization is interested in, and the relationships and business rules that should be applied to that data. In fact, there’s no need to refer to it as data modeling. After all, the word data can be scary for our stakeholders, too.

 

At its heart, data modeling starts by understanding the business concepts we’re interested in…

 

Click below to read more:

http://www.techwell.com/2013/03/business-analysts-dont-hide-data-model